News flash! Every week, following the Board meeting, Supervisor Kuehl picks five items you might find interesting, important, and/or fun. It’s your way to get a quick rundown of several highlights of the meeting in no more than 5 minutes! Looking for more? Click here to get the entire agenda.
Photo: The Board received an update from the Departments of Public Health and Health Services at this week’s Board Meeting, including information on our increased vaccination efforts and the welcome news that LA County is moving into the Yellow Tier, the least restrictive tier, on May 5. In the meantime, the County is consolidating and phasing out large testing sites and working more and more with local services both for tests and for vaccinations.
Supporting LGBTQ+ Military Members
The branches of the US Military have a long history of discrimination, on various bases, and recent histories of working to reverse those policies. For decades, the strict rules and the culture of the armed services explicitly excluded individuals who identified as, or were found out to be, members of the LGBTQ+ community. From 1949- 2011 when the Obama Administration finally ended the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy, mote than 114,000 veterans were involuntarily separated from the United States military on the basis of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Many service members were tried in military criminal courts and charged with criminal acts simply because of their sexual orientation. As a result, servicemembers received dishonorable, or other than honorable, discharges from service, leaving them barred from access to service-connected medical and financial benefits, employment status as veterans, and more.
This week, the Board passed a motion I co-authored with Supervisor Hilda Solis to insist on righting these historical wrongs. The motion calls on the County’s legislative advocates to argue that the military should change these unjust designations. The motion also included directives to advocate for the ability of thousands of transgender veterans who have legally changed their name and gender after leaving the military, but bear discharges that list a former name and gender, to correct their documentation, and be able to access the services they have honorably earned in service to the country.
Veteran Suicide Review Team
Even prior to the additional stress piled on by COVID19, suicide among LA veterans was significantly higher than among the general population. That’s why the County took a first step to address a growing veteran suicide crisis last fall after national data showed that veteran suicide across the country had increased in 2020.
The alarming number of suicide deaths among our veteran population has now led led the LA County Board of Supervisors to invest in a peer-based “vet to vet” access initiative known as the Veteran Peer Access Network (VPAN). We also created a unique partnership between the County, City, and the VA to review thousands of suicide deaths in LA County and comb data to identify veterans within the group.
At this week’s Board meeting, we passed a motion I co-authored with Supervisor Kathryn Barger that lays the groundwork for building a systemic local response by establishing a Veteran Suicide Review Team. With the Department of Mental Health as the lead agency, the team will make intervention and prevention recommendations, so we can begin to help save the lives of those who risked their lives for the rest of us.
Reducing Single-Use Plastics in County Facilities
A recent UCLA report showed that plastic food service ware is rarely collected for recycling, primarily due to size, food contamination, and undesirable materials. We know that these single-use plastics make up a significant portion of the scourge of plastic waste affecting LA County’s land and waterways, and we have an opportunity to show leadership in waste management. As we promote more sustainable alternatives countywide, we need to lead by example.
The Board passed a motion I co-authored with Supervisor Hilda Solis asking for a draft Board Policy to eliminate the use of single-use plastics in County facilities as much as possible, require any single-use items to be compostable or highly recyclable, and encourage reusables. It will establish guidelines for County events to be zero-waste, set goals for SB 1383 implementation in County Departments, and collect data on our progress.
North Area Plan
The Santa Monica Mountains are home to one of the world’s largest and most significant Mediterranean ecosystems. Still, habitat loss and fragmentation pose severe threats to the area’s native species and biodiversity. Through smart, conservation-minded planning, we have a chance to prevent overdevelopment and preserve the landscape’s natural beauty for generations to come.
This week we approved a resolution to adopt an updated North Area Plan, aligning the plan with many environmental and land use protections in the Local Coastal Plan. The updated North Area Plan includes robust habitat protections and development standards that focus development in appropriate locations.
This herculean effort would not be possible without dedicated LA County staff at the Department of Regional Planning and the valuable input from residents of the Santa Monica Mountains, who have always been the driving force in preserving the mountains for the enjoyment and benefit of everyone in Los Angeles.
Protecting Surviving Families from Law Enforcement Harassment and Retaliation
For years, civil rights activists and families fighting for their relatives who have been victims of deputy misconduct and force have reported unforgivable harassment and retaliation from Sheriff deputies. Incidents, which have been reported to organizations like the ACLU, include intimidation by LASD deputies at memorials and other healing events, targeting family members of their victims by detaining and/or arresting them, and other forms of harassment on a regular basis. For these families to be re-traumatized while enduring their grief is shameful and flatly unacceptable.
The Board, after a forceful condemnation of these actions, passed a motion co-authored by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Holly Mitchell to protect surviving families from law enforcement harassment and retaliation, and expand the Office of the Inspector General’s abilities to effectively investigate these disturbing complaints. The motion allows the OIG to work directly with these families and to pursue legal avenues if LASD refuses to cooperate. Finally, the motion seeks alternatives to the LASD complaint system, which forces families to file complaints with the very institution by whom they’ve been victimized.